Review: Rebecca Makkai’s The Borrower

Good afternoon readers and welcome to my review of Rebecca Makkai’s debut novel, The Borrower.

The first thing I want to say about this novel is that I picked it up off a bookshelf at a small bookstore, curious about its contents after seeing the cover and the blurb. It sat on my shelf untouched for a year or two, until I picked it up a few weeks ago and decided to sate my curiosity. The Borrower, published in 2011, is a novel about self-discovery, and about coming to terms with one’s own past. It’s not my usual fare, as some of you may know, so I was mildly surprised when I found myself enthralled by its characters and wanting to know more about their lives. The main character, Lucy Hull, finds herself getting deeper and deeper in the life of young Ian Drake. So deep, in fact, that Ian demands to be ‘kidnapped’ by her in a journey which takes them across America and almost into Canada, in order to find Ian’s dead ‘grandmother’. The reason Lucy is so attached? She believes that Ian is gay, and that his heavily religious parents are attempting to have his ‘illness’ taken away by the grace of God, and Pastor Bob of Glad Heart Ministries. The ever anxious Ian is attempting to run away from his parents, but not all is as dire as it seems. The two protagonists go on a journey in which they both learn some things, and Lucy is reminded of her Russian family and their history as runaways, leaving a hardened country to come to the land where there’s nothing to run from. Nothing, of course, except yourself.

Like I said earlier, this isn’t the type of book I would usually read. And yet, I found myself enjoying it for its witty content and very solid character portrayal. The only issue I had was  the sometimes slightly out-of-character depictions of the ten- and eleven- year- old Ian, who constantly threw tantrums like a five year old and seemed to be making decisions of increasingly questionable basis. Though I suspect it was out of a desperation to escape his own demons, it still seemed a little strange to me.

The thing that stuck with me the most about The Borrower was the way Lucy began to discover things about herself and her family, in ways that perhaps took her by surprise. It really spoke to the meaning of the word family, and how its different for everyone. Sometimes in ways you never even dreamed possible.

That’s it for me for the moment. I haven’t yet decided what I’ll read next, but stay tuned for the usual updates!



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